Savvy marketers know finely crafted e-books are highly effective tools for promoting products and services. Yet three common mistakes often ensure that e-books end up collecting digital dust. It’s a pity, because these design-rich, information-stuffed pieces pack an impressive descriptive punch while explaining the benefits and details of products and services. When done right, e-books can go viral and can be rapidly shared among a variety of networks.

Well-constructed e-books educate and inform readers, and even entertain them. They combine text, color, typography, infographics, illustrations, interactive diagrams, audio clips, and video to help readers understand ideas without bogging them down with every last detail.

E-books can be published in a myriad of reader-specific file formats. The platform best suited for your e-book depends on your audience’s preferences, readers’ habits, media types, and numerous other factors. But to make e-books successful, you need to avoid these three mistakes:

1. Your content isn’t relevant for your intended audience
Initially, your e-book idea seemed great, but now that it has been published all you hear are crickets. What happened? It’s entirely possible that what you wanted to convey isn’t what your audience wanted to read. In many cases, e-books fail because authors don’t understand the current interests of their audiences, or because the topic has already been covered in other e-books or similar collateral. Without a relevant subject or a new angle on an old topic, bored readers simply move on.

Your e-book should help your audience solve its current problems, which means you must understand its current pain points. It’s highly likely your readers are voicing their concerns on social channels. Pay attention to these channels to discover what your customers are loving, hating, and talking about, and then make those issues the subject of your e-book. Remember, social media is as much about hearing as it is about speaking. (As a case in point, the idea for this post surfaced after seeing a stream of confused comments regarding e-books that appeared on LinkedIn.)

2. Your title doesn’t grab the reader’s attention
Understanding composition is one thing. Getting readers’ attention is another matter. When wading through an ocean of clutter on the web, the first (and sometimes only) thing people see is the title of your e-book. You have only a few seconds to capture your readers’ interest and convince them to look inside. Many great e-books fail because of dry titles that don’t encourage people to read more.

Develop a concise, active title that lets readers immediately understand what you are trying to say. Avoid generic, wordy titles, or anything that appears to have been lifted from a technical data sheet. Be lively and engaging; don’t be afraid to use a little humor if it’s appropriate for your audience and subject matter. But get to the point quickly with your title.

3. Your e-book doesn’t provide bonus value
No one understands the bonus value principle better than children. There’s a reason why they beg their parents for a particular brand of cereal just to get a lump of plastic at the bottom of the box—and grown-ups still think the same way.

Fortunately, e-books can be loaded with goodies. While ensuring rock-solid content in the e-book is the best possible incentive (see #1 and #2 above), e-books let you reinforce your content with options such as audio and video that can’t be included with printed material. One effective add-on we’ve seen gives customers access to information that isn’t available elsewhere, such as a brand-new customer success story or an interview with a top-notch developer. Other incentives from the world of sales promotions can be effective as well: discounts, coupons, quizzes, instant-win games, sweepstakes entries, prizes, points…e-books can deliver any of these, and including them can help drive more readership.

The trick is that your incentive must be exclusive and appealing enough to motivate people to download and read your e-book.

Avoiding the mistakes listed above will help you produce content that begs to be read and shared. Are your e-books falling flat? Let us know and we’ll tell you how we’d address your e-book challenges.